The Effects of Social Media on Children
By Angela Barnes and Christine Laird
Social media is quickly evolving in front of our eyes and it is almost impossible to reject and hide from this new form of media. Not only is it an important part of socialization within peer groups but now it is used to market and motivate people to become a part of a larger community. It is undeniably changing the way one communicates and how one finds and shares information. Most websites offer communication through the use of Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and many various blog formats. With new apps on smartphones and photography and video made digital, media can be created, edited and shared quickly and once it is in this new digital cloud it is not yours anymore. Through these new advances in technology one can share things about themselves to the world to view, and prior to social media one would have to communicate and share physically. These social media site offer adolescence new ways to access communication and entertainment and the long-term effects are still unknown. For this reason, it is imperative for parents to be more aware of this new media and what it offers both good and bad for our children.
Five aspects of the use of social media:
- not many restrictions on creatively expressing oneself
- easy way to share information
- informal support of other’s work
- general understanding and respect of other people’s forms of expression
- an alternative way of socializing (Chau, 2010)
Positive Effects of Social Media on Children and Adolescents:
There are many ways social media can be used by youth in a positive way. It is not just an avenue for socializing; kids and adolescents can be creative, interact, and learn (Chau, 2010). Social networking provides an alternative way to get students interested in learning with a new and previously unconventional medium (Rosen, 2011). It can also help with “homework and group projects” (Clark-Pearson, O’Keeffe, 2011).
Even though social media isn’t only used for social interaction, it is an important aspect of adolescents’ lives. Social media provides an avenue for them to stay connected with peers they have met through school, sports teams, church, etc (Ito, 2008). Social networking can also help shy adolescents have a more non-threatening way to interact with peers because they aren’t interacting face-to-face (Rosen, 2011).
It also provides an opportunity for teens to connect with others who share a similar interest (Ito, 2008). Social media sites can provide a place for adolescents to share their interests in art, music, games and blogs with others (Clark-Pearson, O’Keeffe, 2011).
The teen years can be a challenging time, and social networks can be places for teens to turn to for support and advice when going through challenging experiences (Nielsen, 2009). Adolescents who use Facebook have been shown to demonstrate more “virtual empathy” (Rosen, 2011). Social networking can be a positive and somewhat easier way for adolescents to get to know and become accepting of others from “diverse backgrounds” (Clark-Pearson, O’Keeffe, 2011). As well as providing social support, social media sites can also provide medical support. Adolescents can easily and anonymously seek medical advice (Clark-Pearson, O’Keeffe, 2011).
Children and adolescents are capable of impacting their communities and even the world in amazing ways. Social media provides them a variety of ways to go about making positive change. Some examples are implementing fundraising campaigns and getting involved in “political events” (Clark-Pearson, O’Keeffe, 2011).
Negative Effects of Social Media on Children and Adolescents:
Although there are many positive aspects of social media, the negative effects on children and adolescents are also numerous. Social media can affect the mental health of teens. The level of effect, according to research, seems to go up as teens’ use goes up. Their level of contentment can decrease, and their likelihood of getting into trouble or being depressed can increase (Rideout, 2010). Also, teens who use Facebook tend to be more narcissistic, antisocial, and aggrssive (Rosen, 2011).
Many forms of cyberbullying is also a problem and can lead to the victims experiencing depression and anxiety. Cyberbullying has also been the cause of many suicides in young people (Kowalski, 2009).
It is bad enough that there are adolescents who are victims of negative comments by peers, but many are victimized by strangers as well. Many young online users are lured by online sexual predators (Ybarra, 2007).
Because of adolescents and their parents being concerned about the above mentioned risks, more teens care about privacy issues (Youn, 2009). One problem concerning privacy issues is that many adolescents are unaware of the privacy policies on the social media websites they use (Cox, 2007).
Many adolescents are influenced by the powerful advertising they see on social media sites, and it strongly influences their buying habits. Many of them are not aware that they are individually targeted because the sites keep track of their habits and demographics. These young people and their parents need to be aware of how they are targeted so smarter choices can be made around their spending habits (Clark-Pearson, O’Keeffe, 2011).
As with just about everything, social media should be used in moderation. Studies have shown that adolescents and even college students who are on Facebook too much have lower grades (Rosen, 2011).
Carroll, J.A. & Kirkpatrick, R.L. (2011). Impact of social media on adolescent behavioral health. Oakland, CA: California Adolescent Health Collaborative.
Chau, C. (2010). You Tube as a participatory culture. Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 128, 65-74.
Clarke-Pearson, K., O’Keeffe, G., (2011). The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org
Rosen, L.D., (2011). Social Networking’s Good and Bad Impacts on Kids. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org